The morning was perfect. The sea was calm, There was just the lightest of breezes, the sun was coming up and the gas tank on my Rosborough RF-246 was full. I completed my pre-cruise checks, cast off of the La Conner guest pier (with the help of fellow yachtsmen), and made my way out into the Swinomish Channel, headed upstream (against the tide, that was moving fast in the other direction) toward the Hole In The Rock and the route to Saratoga Passage. Folks had told me the night before not to go until about noon due to the low tide at the “Hole” but I looked at their boats (averaging a draft of about 6’ I’d guess) and decided I would risk the rising tide (of 4’) with the Rosborough’s draft of 2’.
The trip through Washington’s upper Swinomish Channel was pretty, and we spotted a bald Eagle that stayed with us much of the morning. Sure enough, after passing through the Hole In The Rock (the semi-hidden southern entrance to the channel) we found a well-marked ribbon of water to the port side to which I kept religiously (had to reset the depth alarm to 4’) while slowing to ask after the five (5!) boats (3 sail and 2 powerboats) that were hard aground, leaning on their keels, to starboard. I estimated they’d be there for a good 4-5 hours before they floated free.
About an hour later, we made our way into the north entrance of Saratoga Passage with Oak Harbor Marina on the right beam, the town and unique marina of Coupeville at Penn Cove off the starboard bow in the distance, and only three other boats making their way south. Two of these were sailboats under power (because there wasn’t enough wind to fill their sails) and the third, I was excited to see, appeared to be my first sighting of another Rosborough RF-246. I estimated that he was doing about 9-10 knots and was at least three miles ahead of me, so I increased throttle to about 15 knots and set a course that would intersect with his. The twin Hondas 150’s quietly found their pace and the boat pushed forward to meet a sister ship.
It wasn’t until “Kokomo” had a little less than a mile between her and the other yacht that I could make out, through the binoculars, that she wasn’t a Rosborough. I had just set the binocs down on the helm when my VHF solved the mystery for me.
“This is ‘Rasbutin’, the Aylward 25 calling the vessel about a mile in our wake and about 15 degrees to port … Do you read?”, came the call. I responded, he slowed, and soon we were running abeam one another, introducing ourselves and admiring each other’s boats via an alternate VHF channel. Turns out the Aylward 25 is a ‘Rosborough-style’ boat built for the same compact yacht market, by a boatbuilder on the same island of Nova Scotia as the Rosborough plant.
Nova Trawler Company came close enough to the design of my “Rossi” that, from several miles away, I mistook their 25 trawler for a sistership. The Aylward has no forward doors, though, and the head on most boats is located port side, aft in the main cabin. That gives one a stand-up head, which is nice (I’ve seen a Rosborough 246 set up this way), but it impedes your sight line when you’re at the helm and takes away much of your galley space. I would opt for the more compact head in the v-berth, which is an option on the Aylward 25.
The boat was interesting, and I’ve since done some research into the line. Like Rosborough Boats, Nova Trawler Company makes a variety of ‘down east’ boats, and has done well for itself. The most famous of the Nova boats is the Monk 36 aft-cabin trawler, but the company builds an impressive fleet of ocean-going vessels from 25’ to 42’ as well as custom projects.
Nova saw that Rosborough was enjoying great success with it’s RF 246 design, and developed the Aylward 25 to fill the gap in their market for a trailerable, fully-equipped boat that took the sea well and was sufficiently outfitted for extended periods out on the water. They further designed it to take advantage of the economy and reliability of the Yanmar diesel engine, which is offered both as an inboard and an inboard/outboard stern drive. I’ve also found the vessel with a large outboard on a bracket/swim platform (not a hull extension), but the inboard diesel seems more popular with Aylward trawler owners.
Boarding the Aylward 25 through the cockpit, the door to the cabin is on the starboard side. Upon entry, the dinette is in front of you with the helm forward. When you’re done with the meal, the back rest of the forward dinette settee flips around to make up a comfortable double-wide helm seat. To the port side is the head, the compact galley (fridge is optional) and a navigators seat facing forward.
Moving forward and a couple steps down, through teak doors, and you’ll find yourself in the v-berth cabin. There is a shelf and hanging locker to port, and under-berth storage accessed through compartment doors to both port and starboard. The company says that tall and ‘heavy-set’ folks are well suited to the berths. A compartment door forward is a convenient way to reach the anchor chain locker. The teak, louvered doors and a matching overhead door between the v-berth cabin and main cabin provide both privacy and ventilation when closed, and the overhead hatch provides both ventilation and emergency egress. Two side windows provide ample natural light.
The Aylward 25’s cabin can be fitted with teak accents throughout, and the galley features two teak (louvered) doors. The head is spacious and is enclosed with a large, louvered teak door as well. A ‘shippy’ spoked ship’s wheel makes the inclined helm match the rest of the cabin nicely and provides a nautical flair.
The boat’s exterior design places a premium on low maintenance and safe operation. If you have the ever popular inboard diesel, you have an engine box that you can sit on, which is nice since it takes up a great deal of space in the cockpit. Overhead there is a partial overhang of the cabin roof, which is nice in bad weather. There’s ample space to walk forward on either side of the boat, stout stainless steel rails on the bow and a good place for your ground tackle forward.
Though I can’t help but compare the Aylward 25 to the Rosborough RF-246, the Nova boat is quite nice for what it is. But, despite it’s similar appearance, it’s not a Rosborough. If I didn’t own the Rossi (or better yet if I weren’t aware of its existence) the Aylward 25 would be of great interest to me. But I have seen the Aylward billed as a “Rosborough-type” boat in several ads for used vessels, and I think that probably the company is trying to emulate the RF-246 in the similar hull designs. Rather than expounding the long list of differences in the boats, I choose to simply accredit my erroneous, long-distance identification of the boat as a ‘mis-identification’ and to recognize the Aylward 25 for the well-built, quality boat it is.
Photos courtesy of mftr website: www.novatrawler.com